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Atari 2600 Homebrew Companion Volume 3

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Volume 3 of the Atari 2600 Homebrew companion
recently dropped, last month just in time for Christmas. In his third book, Brian Matherne
continues the monumental task of documenting nearly every aspect of the games covered. The forward this time around was written by
the Journalist and author, Brett Weiss, followed by a nice piece by James Earl O’Brien, from
the Zeropage Homebrew Youtube and Twitch Channels. If you are not familiar with what a homebrew
game is, well, James examines that question in some detail, but in summary, it is an original
game, programmed from the ground up, and completed for the system. So essentially, it’s a new
game idea brought to fruition often by a non-professional source. This book covers some 24 of these homebrew
games spanning 20 years from 1997 to 2017. This is down from 34 titles covered in the
first two volumes, the reason being there are a lot more photos included. Notable titles include; The E.T. Book cartridge,
Evil Magician Returns, Conjoined!, and Super Cobra Arcade. I had previously asked Brian, how he was able
to put these books together so fast, he reminded me that a lot of the research was pulled from
his massive homebrew list, which goes by the title “The Most Comprehensive Atari 2600
Homebrew List”. I’ll provide links in the videos description. I have to think even with
all the information contained within that list, he still would have had to do a lot
more research to fill out the pages of this book. For example, check out page 118, covering
the many game options for River Raid 3. As with the other volumes, the games in book
three are arranged alphabetically and the author includes title screen images as well
as gameplay screen shots from most of the games covered in the book. There are also
images of game boxes and cartridges sprinkled in. Each game is broken into its various sections;
background, release notes, gameplay, options, controls, scoring, design, strategy, analysis,
and its done consistently throughout the book. There’s quite a bit of knowledge to be gleaned
within these sections, including in some cases, Easter egg reveals, and flashback portable
functionality reports. I particularly enjoy the release notes and
strategy sections. Here we catch of glimpse of the games development history and the best
ways to approach completing them. The books cover is nicely done. It was taken
from what looks like a screen shot of Champ Games Super Cobra Arcade. There’s a nice orange
to yellow and blue font for the book title. On the back side there’s an image from Star
Castle. This book contains a nice table of contents
which lists all of the game titles. There’s a forward, a section explaining what homebrew
games are, and another one covering how the games are programmed. Brian has managed to
throw in a few low key advertisements for other products that he has contributed to
and endorsed. Examples include the 8-Bit Annual 2019, the upcoming Blast Annual 2020, Zeropage
Homebrew Youtube show, and the Atari Awards 2020. At the end of the book there is a short section
of definitions and websites covered. I purchased the paperback version, which is
printed in black and white and is available for $12.99 . If that sounds too pricey you
can still purchase the Kindle version for $3.99. All three volumes clock in at exactly 182
total pages. This was intentionally done, both to keep the price down and to keep the
series of books uniform in size. Credit to Brian Matherne for completing his
first homebrew trilogy. With volumes one to three in full production, we are starting
to see the beginning of a new encyclopedia of Atari 2600 homebrew games. Adding to this,
Brian has published another book, “The Atari 2600 Holiday Homebrew Companion”, which is
currently available for $18.99, at 390 pages it is roughly double the size of the first
three volumes, making it a super value proposition. I intend to put out a review of it later this
year. I appreciate the amount of work, research
and polish that went into producing these books and look forward to future editions. Highly recommended.

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